I am composing this as I sit next to my daughter’s hospital bed. For several days now she has been fighting dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus common in Cambodia where she spent the previous two weeks. She was working with a ministry that cares for children who are trapped in a cycle of poverty that all too often leads to slavery in what is known as “sex tourism.”
Westerners with certain “thirsts” that cannot be easily slaked in their own countries travel to places like Phnom Penh where the lack of basic resources, desperation, and generational brokenness leave children vulnerable to these predators with money to burn. I cannot imagine what those children are going through. But, as a parent, I find myself wedged between their suffering and the suffering of my own daughter.
Should I have let her go? After all, there are plenty of places in America where you can find poor and troubled kids. My daughter didn’t create the circumstances in Cambodia. Should she be the one to fix them? And, really, what difference will it make? She’s a kid herself, a senior in college. Sex tourism is just a specific manifestation of a morass of economic, historical, cultural, and geopolitical forces no one seems to understand.
And then I remember the Gospel story: there was a Father who sent His Child into a catastrophe that makes the troubles in Cambodia look like a schoolyard scuffle. The Son took into Himself the sickness of the world, a sickness He neither deserved nor created. If the Son did not make the trip, there would be no one to hear our cries, to rescue us, to adopt us as sons and daughters. When she first told me of her decision to go, Emily said, “Dad, if I were them, I would want someone to come for me.”
I am a long way from having the character of our heavenly Father, but my daughter is helping me understand what it means to be drawn fully into the gospel story, teaching me that the Gospel is both a gift and way of being in the world for which we are responsible.
He came for us; we go for Him. That’s what I’m learning as she heals in this quiet room. He came; we go.